LITTLE ROCK — Former lieutenant governor and gubernatorial candidate Bill Halter on Thursday criticized a bill endorsed by a legislative committee that would increase the amounts of lottery-funded scholarships as students advance through college.
The House Rules Committee on Wednesday endorsed House Bill 1295 by Rep. Jeremy Gillam, R-Judsonia, and Sen. Johnny Key, R-Mountain Home, which would change the amounts students are awarded under the Academic Challenge Scholarship.
Under the proposal, students attending four-year schools would be awarded in the following amounts: $2,000 for freshmen, $3,000 for sophomores, $4,000 for juniors and $5,000 for seniors. Students attending two-year schools would receive $2,000 per year.
The bill stipulates students already in the program would continue to receive those amounts whilet students entering the program in the 2013-14 school year would receive the tiered amounts.
"This legislation will make it significantly more difficult for Arkansas students to achieve a higher education," said Halter, who led the drive to create the lottery-scholarship in 2008.
"With virtually no warning to tens of thousands of parents and students, this bill fundamentally changes the program to the point where it will reduce the number of Arkansas students able to enter a state college or university," he said in a news release. "It’s a bad idea for students and parents and it’s a bad idea for Arkansas."
Supporters of the bill said the tiered approach would give students a new incentive to retain their scholarships.
Shane Broadway, interim director of the state Department of Higher Education, told reporters after Wednesday’s meeting that the department had not taken a position on the bill but said he believed it would prevent the program from running out of funds next year.